I recently was reviewing the original New Deal program of Franklin Roosevelt which began in March, 1933. The resemblance to January, 2009 is amazing, but the reaction of FDR as contrasted with that of Barack Obama is dramatically different. Both confronted a severe banking problem and both dealt immediately with this issue. However, Franklin Roosevelt said from day one that second problem that must be immediately addressed was –JOBS. Within six months plans had been set in motion for nearly 2,000,000 men to be at work. These work efforts resulted in protecting our national forests, building schools, hospitals, bridges, employing artists to paint beautiful murals in schools, writers to write, roads to be built, and houses constructed. A year has gone by and President Obama promises–eventually– the economy will get back on its feet and there will be jobs. Harry Hopkins, a key adviser to FDR, one said: “People do not eat in the long run, they eat today.”
While the Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, is using billions of dollars to improve test scores, at least two hundred thousand teachers will lose their jobs. While the Duncan agenda focuses on testing and scores, our schools are dumbing down the curriculum. In the 1930s, there were programs to ensure young people could remain in college, today, we make certain they will not. What is wrong with the Obama approach?
There is a disconnect between Obama and the American people. His favorite expression is that something is “very difficult” to explain. A leader knows how to express complexity in clear terms. A story to illustrate the problem. About 3,000 veterans of WWI marched on Washington in the spring of 1933. Mrs. Roosevelt left the White House by herself, made certain the marchers had a place to sleep, talked with them, even sang songs with them, and discovered some were so broke they wanted to get into the new CCC program which was designed for young people. She talked to some people, got a waiver, and 2500 were allowed to enter. She then arranged free rail transportation for the remainder. In other words, PEOPLE were always the focus, not the wealthy and their needs.
As FDR once told a banker who complained about his programs: “Buy some old clothes, get a second hand car, and travel around American talking to people, then come back and talk with me.” Good advice to President Obama.